New Federal Initiatives on Fuel Cells, Aviation Industry

Two new federal initiatives will further fuel cell/ hydrogen research and environmental initiatives in the aviation industry. 

The Department of Energy (DOE) is opening a National Fuel Cell Technology Evaluation Center to further development of fuel cells and hydrogen technologies.

Housed at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), industry, academics, and government organizations can submit and review their research projects. It’s designed as a first-of-its-kind secure data center to process proprietary data from stakeholders. 

The idea is to accelerate commercialization of technologies by strengthening data collection from projects currently operating under real-world conditions, and compare them to technical targets. It does so through aggregated analysis results that show the status and progress of the technology, but do not identify individual companies. Information will be open to the public. 

The center will make use of the $10 million High Performance Computing Center, the largest supercomputer dedicated solely to renewable energy research.

In related news, the Department of Transportation announced $13.6 million in grants to advance commercialization of fuel cell buses made in the US. This adds to the $90 million awarded through the Federal Transit Administration’s National Fuel Cell Bus Program since 2006.

This latest round of funding will support eight R&D projects carried out by partnerships of local transit agencies and corporations.

The biggest award, $4.2 million will be used to develop and demonstrate smaller, less expensive fuel cells that can be used in combination with batteries on a hybrid platform. California’s Sunline Transit Agency is working with industry partners, ElDorado National and BAE Systems.

$3.1 million goes for developing fuel cell buses that can run in cold climates and $1.8 million will be used to test long-term operation and performance of fuel cell buses at Oakland-based AC Transit, which has the biggest fuel cell fleet in the US.

Air Transportation Center of Excellence

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is opening the Air Transportation Center of Excellence to help the airline industry move forward on energy and environmental issues, such as climate change, noise and air pollution.

Prime areas of research will be new aircraft technologies and clean jet fuels.

The university-led Center will be led by Washington State University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and will be joined by many other university partners: Boston University, Oregon State University, Purdue University, University of Dayton, University of Illinois/ Urbana-Champaign, University of Pennsylvania, University of Washington, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University, the University of Hawaii, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Tennessee.

Some of the many industry partners are: Airbus, Boeing, Alaska Airlines – the most efficient airline – Delta Air Lines, General Electric Aircraft Engines, Honeywell, and biofuel developers Gevo and KiOR. 

Under the cost-shared program, FAA will contribute $40 million over 10 years. It has set a target of 1 billion gallons of clean  jet fuel in use by 2018. 

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